Sunday, April 17, 2011

I is for Interpreter!

I is for Interpreter!

It's a universally accepted fixture of sci fi, the ability to communicate fluently with alien, foreign and even terrestrial races and nations with losing nothing in the translation. Think about how big a thing this is. That every nation, race and life form that has a formal language can communicate with each other.Ethnologue list approximately 6800 languages right now on earth. It anticipates in the next century, approximately 3000 languages will go extinct. So even at about 4000 languages, can you imagine the kind of catlogueing, diagramming and computing that would need to be made to actully create an artificial interpreter.

now extrapolate that to a sci fi universe where instant and perfect communications occurs across the universe. We're not talking about on a planetary level where the dialects or or even sounds may be able to be made by the same life form. We're talking across systems and races and species. It's the stuff of space opera that only hard science could solve.

So this gives rise to a few options: a common trade language is adopted to be spoken by the major nations and races; a digital translator is wired into us, our clothes our watches, something, to have a mechanical way to translate instantaneously; a communication gap exists, how do get over it.

All three allow you a way to shape your world and communication in it. Think about how many wars would be started about bad communication. Or no communication. Or the differences between species trying to communicate(lips, mouths, teeth, face and eyes).

The typical space opera option is the common language. Easy, simple, no heavy lifting with hard science necessary. Star Trek and Star Wars mode.

Translating gear opens up more options for conflict, missed communication, and faulty tech. All creating plot seeds and a chance for adventure.

And finally, a communication gap exists. Alien races struggle to communicate without causing an incident. You want to land on that undocumented planet and start rousting the locals and you have no way of communicating? Better bring a lot of body bags for the away team.

You may not think about it, in your next space opera campaign or game, think about how language, communication, and the interpretation of language can create drama, tension and interest for the adventurers

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